Courtesy Tom Waddill / ItemOnline.com
The Hornets set the tone all right. On Friday night at Don Ford Stadium, Huntsville executed its game plan perfectly, for a little more than a half at least.
The Hornets jumped all over the Porter Spartans in the first quarter, scoring three touchdowns in a six-minute span and blowing out to a 21-0 lead. After senior Markey Thomas busted a 49-yard touchdown run early in the second half, the Hornets seemed to shut off their engines.
Coasting cost them a chance to make it an easy night. Porter hung two touchdowns on the board and suddenly found itself within striking distance midway through the fourth quarter.
Huntsville running back Henry Ford hammered his foot to the floor and found the end zone from 51 yards out. Quarterback Kent Albert tacked on a 2-point run and the Hornets celebrated their second consecutive victory, 43-21.
“We felt really good about what we did in the first quarter,” Hornets coach Shane Martin said. “We did a lot of good things early in tonight’s game, then we took our feet off the throttle a little bit and didn’t finish very well.
“We made some big plays early that helped us build a lead. We could have put the game away, but we didn’t do that. We let them back in the ball game and we can’t do that again.”
It didn’t take the Hornets (2-1 in District 18-4A play, 2-4 overall) long to take control of Friday’s game. Thomas caught an Albert pass over the middle and streaked 27 yards for Huntsville’s first score less than 90 seconds into the game.
“On our second play, Kent threw it my way and I just ran as hard as I could,” said Thomas, who had a big night on both sides of the ball. “I have no idea how far I ran, but I got to the end zone.”
Five plays later, cornerback Kaleb Branch broke on a Colton Clark pass, wrestled it away from a Porter receiver and raced 11 yards for a touchdown.
“Their receiver didn’t put his hands up right and I just took it from him,” Branch said.
Adrian Juarez booted the Hornets’ first extra point, while Isaac Guzman came in and kicked the second one.
After Huntsville’s defense stopped the Spartans for the third consecutive time, the Hornets marched 32 yards for another score. Ford, who followed his 252-yard performance last week with a 101-yard game Friday, scored on a 1-yard run with 3:30 left in the first quarter.
Huntsville, which plays host to defending district champion Humble next week, came up with two key turnovers before the break that helped them stretch their lead.
First, the Hornets put a big hit on Porter running back Ty Ewart after Ethan Bryce returned a punt deep into Huntsville territory. The ball popped out of Ewart’s hands and Thomas recovered on the Hornets’ 6-yard line.
With less than a minute to go before halftime, Huntsville defensive tackle Demonte Byrd pounced on a bad Porter pitch. That gave the Hornet offense a shot at the end zone on the last play of the half.
Albert, who completed 7-of-20 passes for 154 yards, looked for Ricky Bennett in the corner of the end zone. Wisely, when he saw that his first option was well covered, Albert looked to the middle of the field and found Kriston Minor standing all alone in the end zone.
Zip. The Hornets completed a 20-yard touchdown pass and Guzman’s second successful point-after kick gave them a 28-8 halftime lead.
“We finally made some plays. We made some things happen tonight,” Martin said. “That pass in the end zone to Kriston was big, Markey made some plays. Porter prepared for number 25 (Ford) and that gave Markey an opportunity to do some things.”
After Thomas broke free for his 49-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, the teams traded punts for the rest of the third quarter.
Huntsville failed to get a first down on a fake punt, and a few plays later the Spartans scored on an 11-yard pass from Clark to Charles Sanders. A minute later, Porter capitalized on a Hornet fumble, going 32 yards in five plays for another score.
This time Bryce beat three Huntsville defenders to the pylon on a 12-yard scoot. Jesus Altamirano booted the extra point and Porter was back in the game at 35-21.
“We’re going to take a really long look at the film from tonight’s game and figure out what went wrong there in the second half,” Martin said. “Then we’re going to fix those problems before we play a really good Humble team. We have to get after those guys. They’re the only undefeated team left in our district.”